Composer and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire showcases the genius of Miles Davis in “The Miles Davis Experience” at the Craterian Theater. - Photo courtesy of Craterian Performances

The Miles Davis Experience

What is cool? According to the official Miles Davis website, cool is all about what's happening next, and what's happening next encompasses past, present and future: That which is about to happen may be cool; that which happened in the past also may be cool; and that which has been cool always will be cool.

Trumpeter Davis, May 26, 1926 - Sept. 28, 1991, left us with a jazz legacy of all that is cool.

Now, a collaboration between Miles Davis Properties, Blue Note Records and a young trumpeter named Ambrose Akinmusire (pronounced ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee) has created an immergent musical and historical production titled "The Miles Davis Experience: 1949-1959."

The show is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

The multimedia experience pays tribute to Davis with live music, photography, film clips, recordings and beat poet-style narration. Its concept is to capture the cultural context of a period in American history through the lens of jazz.

Akinmusire and his band showcase Davis' music from the late '40s — when Miles, saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and arranger Gil Evans ushered in "The Birth of Cool" on the Capitol label — through Davis' jazz recordings in the '50s on Blue Note Records.

Akinmusire and his group use their own gifts to celebrate the music of Davis. Gone is any effort to imitate Davis by playing his music the same way. Akinmusire captures Davis with his improvisations and honors the man's musical genius.

The 28-year-old Akinmusire was named "up-and-coming artist of the year" in June by the Jazz Journalist Association. His album, "When the Heart Emerges Glistening," was released in April on Blue Note Records. "When the Heart Emerges" was co-produced by Akinmusire and pianist and composer Jason Moran and features tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown.

Akinmusire was born and raised in Oakland, Calif. He caught the attention of saxophonist Steve Coleman while performing as a member of the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble. At 19, he began touring Europe with Coleman and his band, Five Elements.

After, Akinmusire studied at the Manhattan School of Music, then returned to the West Coast to pursue a master's degree at the University of Southern California. He went on to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles, where he says he went from being an oddball to being surrounded by people who were just like him and having teachers that stressed such musicians as Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

In 2007, Akinmusire won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition from a panel of judges that included Blanchard, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove. He moved back to New York City and began performing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding and pianist Moran — and caught the attention of Bruce Lundvall, president of Blue Note Records.

The linear presentation of Davis' music chronology tells the story of postwar America, the civil rights struggle and the creative, new music that Davis pioneered and nurtured.

Davis was always in the right place at the right time, another defining aspect of cool. Born in Alton, Ill., and raised in St. Louis, Davis was a child prodigy whose mastery of the trumpet accelerated as he came under the spell of such jazzmen as Clark Terry, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine and others. In 1944 at age 18, he was admitted to The Juilliard School, more as a ruse to get to New York City and hook up with Parker and Gillespie. Davis accomplished his goal — he can be heard on sessions led by Parker and others from the mid- to late '40s.

A historic performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 led Davis to his first great band, featuring John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.

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